The Light of the World : a memoir



I recently finished reading The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. It’s a love story. A tragic story. A deeply human story. And I would say to those of you who have ever lost a spouse or partner, there is plenty in this book that will move you in ways that are authentically and emotionally true. It’s not self help. It’s not overwrought in some kind of contrived, emotional way. It’s simply a woman talking about the death of her husband. I recommend it.

Elizabeth Alexander is a professor at Yale University. You may remember her as the poet selected by President Obama, because she composed and recited her poem at his inauguration “Praise Song for the Day.” Her memoir is not poetry. But it is deeply poetic. So kind and gentle and honest about loss and grief. More than anything, she demonstrates the power of remembering, holding onto her dear husband by way creating a narrative from the past into a sustaining presence for herself and her children.

In the book she quotes a little poem by Langston Hughes that goes like this . . .

I love my friend

He went away from me

There’s nothing more to say

The poem ends,

Soft as it began — 

I loved my friend. 



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